Somaliland Appeals Court Confirms Fine for Newspaper Editor
MOGADISHU, Somalia, September 14, 2011/African Press Organization (APO)/ — The National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) has today protested against an order by Somaliland appeals court that Saxafi newspaper editor, Abdifatah Mohamud Aidid, pays a 700 USD fine within a week from Monday 12 September 2011.
On 30 April 2011, Hargeisa Regional Court announced its verdict in a defamation case filed by Somaliland Civil Aviation and Air Transport Minister Mohamed Hashi Abdi in January 2011 against the editor-in-chief of “Saxafi” newspaper.
Aidid was charged with defamation by the Somaliland prosecution over a December 2010 article in “Saxafi”, which reportedly cited the “mishandling” of a US$10 million donation from the Government of Kuwait by the Civil Aviation and Air Transport Minister. This donation was seemingly meant for the refurbishment of the Hargeisa and Berbera airports.
However, the Somaliland appeals court confirmed the payment of fine but reduced the amount to USD 700. The court ordered that this to be paid within a week or the journalist risks going to jail.
NUSOJ Secretary General Omar Faruk Osman said the ruling was “harsh” and was meant to reduce the “already constraint media freedom space in Somaliland.” “We condemn the use of criminal defamation to punish journalists in Somaliland. Mounting cases of criminal defamation against journalists are contrary to Somaliland’s constitution and its obligations to respect international standards of freedom of expression and of the press”.
In April 2010, the newspaper editor was convicted of offending the name and reputation of Minister Hashi Abdi, and was, as a consequence, ordered to pay a fine of 6,000,000 Somaliland Shillings (approx. US$1,000). The court, which obliged the journalist to pay the fine within 30 days, also warned “Saxafi” that its licence would be revoked should the paper defame the Minister again.
The editor vowed not to respect the appeals court ruling saying it violated the media law passed by Somaliland parliament in 2004. “This ruling is an insult to the Somaliland media law passed by parliament in 2004 and signed by the president and I will not accept any ruling that is not based the media law,” said editor Aidid.
National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ)